ALAMOSA, Colo. -- A Colorado father is sharing a terrifying message about painkillers that could save a child's life.
After listening to Jimmy Johnson’s story, one believes no parent could have done more to protect, love and guide their child.
But the reality is sometimes all of the love and support in the world is no match for the powerful grip of opioid addiction.
Zakry Johnson was clean and free of drug use when he took his life. He wanted to spare his family any additional pain after being manipulated by drug dealers into a downward spiral of crime.
“I never thought in my wildest dreams that Zak was even involved in drug abuse," Jimmy Johnson said.
Zakry was clean-cut, popular and made all-conference on his high school football team.
His family was loving and protective, but his father said things took a turn when Zakry started using painkillers to treat a sports injury.
“He'd pop two or three Percocet at the beginning of the game and at halftime two or three more," Johnson said.
Zakry Johson soon became addicted.
"Along the way, he had learned how to grind them up and snort them and smoke them," Jimmy Johnson said.
Johnson said he speaks out about his son’s tragic experience to warn other parents of the signs, which include an increased need for money.
“He'd hit me up for a hundred bucks to take his girlfriend out," Johnson said. "A day later, I'd find out he hit grandma up for an extra hundred bucks.”
Denial of addiction and failed attempts to stop taking drugs are also a sign of a problem out of control.
“Tears would stream down his face and he'd promise me ‘I’m not going to do it anymore, dad’ and you want to believe him," Johnson said.
Even though Zakry Johnson was working hard to fight the addiction, the world he was in put him in a position to be manipulated into committing crimes.
It led to a tragic final chapter when Zakry Johnson took his own life, surrounded by police with his father on the phone.
“He said, ‘Dad I want you to know I love you and that you've been a good dad, it wasn't your fault,’ then he put the gun up to his chin and pulled the trigger," Johnson said.
Johnson shared the story with compassion and determination to save the lives of young people at risk and educate parents about the signs and dangers of addiction.
Alamosa police Capt. Ken Anderson said heroin, methamphetamine and prescription drugs are in demand.
“We're seeing it from juvenile age to the elderly," he said.
Police say residents can help by reporting crimes and organizing neighborhood watch groups.
Local advocacy groups say funding for education and treatment programs is the key to fighting the problem.
“It is going to take massive amounts of education because we know that warehousing people in jails and prisons is not the answer," said Freddie Jaquez of the San Luis Valley Area Health Education Center.
People such as Jimmy Johnson are making a crucial difference by speaking out and telling the real story of addiction and the pain, and destruction it can cause.
“I know he's OK. He's out of harm's way and I can live with that," Johnson said.
Johnson remains passionately focused on his mission.
“If this story can help one young person or a family I'm happy to do it and I know Zak would be proud he could make a difference and help somebody just say no," Johnson said.
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